Derek Winnert


This article was written on 29 Sep 2016, and is filled under Uncategorized.

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The Bonfire of the Vanities ** (1990, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall, Saul Rubinek, Morgan Freeman, F Murray Abraham, John Hancock, Kevin Dunn) – Classic Movie Review 4436


Director Brian De Palma’s 1990 vanity project flop fiasco stars an exceptional cast of Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall, Saul Rubinek, Morgan Freeman, F Murray Abraham, John Hancock and Kevin Dunn.

Hanks is top billed as married Manhattan financier, Wall Street hotshot Sherman McCoy, who finds his yuppie world crashing in around him when he is arrested after being involved in a road accident when his mistress Maria Ruskin (Griffith) runs over a young black teenage boy in an African American area of town. Willis plays journalist Peter Fallow, who irresponsibly stirs up public opinion with his skewed tabloid stories about the accident.


The tremendous cast is totally miscast and adrift in this ambitious but weary adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s quintessential novel of the Eighties, with the normally admirable Teflon actors Hanks and Willis handing in career-damaging turns as the philandering financier and the hard-drinking hack, both roles looking like cardboard clichés in these screen incarnations.

The catalogue of problems goes on and on. Characters and storylines are condensed, New York is cleaned up and the novel’s depiction of a hell on earth is passed over in favour of light comedy and a mood of moral indignation. On the plus side, yes, De Palma’s characteristic bravura direction is in evidence. And there is classy work from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, music scorer Dave Grusin and set designer Richard Sylbert. But the creative spark that lit up De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) fails to ignite this Bonfire, and screen-writer Michael Cristofer must bear his share of the blame for the film’s failure.

However, it is definitely watchable and, as a much-maligned, very neglected $47 million train wreck (the US gross was only $15 million), it has a certain curiosity value.

Also in the cast are Clifton James, Alan King, Donald Moffat, Robert Stephens, Barton Heyman, Richard Libertini, André Gregory, Louis Giambalvo, Mary Alice, Beth Broderick and Kurt Fuller.

© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 4436

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